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Nietzsche and the Buddha

Different Lives, Same Ideas (How Nietzsche May Yet Become the West’s Own Buddha)

Daniel Chapelle

This book examines Nietzsche’s claim that he could be the "Buddha of the West." A close reading of his texts shows substantial similarities with the Buddha’s teachings, suggesting a potential basis and a potentially promising future for a Western Buddhism that would be based on Nietzsche’s philosophy. The book first provides a brief comparative biography of Nietzsche and the Buddha and then a review of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path and of what there is in Nietzsche’s writings that is his equivalent to those teachings.

While the West often looks to neuroscience to validate the Buddhist teachings and practices, this book suggests it would be better to study Nietzsche’s thought to discover not only validation for Buddhist teachings but the very foundation of a "Buddhism" that is of the West, by the West, and for the West.

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Chapter 5. Fourth Noble Truth: The Path to Cheerfulness

Extract

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Fourth Noble Truth: The Path to Cheerfulness

1. Buddha

The Noble Eightfold Path

In contrast to Western psychology the Buddhist science of mind views our moment-to-moment intentions and actions, not our prior history, as the decisive factors that determine whether our lives as we are living them lean toward more unhappiness or more happiness.1 It is what we do, not what is done to us, that determines our happiness or unhappiness. The Buddha’s practical psychology, which is based on this fundamental view, is the world’s first self-help psychology, the Noble Eightfold Path, the fourth of the Four Noble Truths.2

With the Noble Eightfold Path we are fully engaged in the process of “way-seeking,” rather than the “truth-seeking” that has been Western philosophy’s traditional concern. It concerns itself with how to live, not what to believe. It is a program for how to act, not what to think. The Noble Eightfold Path is a do-it-yourself program. In the West “religion” has largely come to refer to belief in metaphysical realities that are regarded as unapproachably out of reach and divine. In contrast, in the Indian traditional culture in which←161 | 162→ Buddhism originates “religion” is less focused on metaphysics and intellectual belief than it is on practices for everyday living.3 From this point of view Buddhist practice is religion in the traditional Indian sense, but not in the traditional Western sense. The Fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the “path...

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